Dental Customer/Patient Advocacy: 5 Ways It Can Help Your Practice

A female dentist shows dental scans on a tablet to a patient seated on a dentist’s chair as part of a broader customer or patient advocacy strategy.

The provision of quality and timely treatment to your patients should be at the core of your work as a dentist. However, there is a lot more that goes into running a successful practice.

To ensure a high level of patient care and customer satisfaction, you may also need to figure out how to improve communication, empower patients to make educated decisions, follow up on their recovery, address any concerns they may have, and much more. A well-thought-out customer or patient advocacy strategy could help a great deal in this regard.

What Is Customer or Patient Advocacy?

Customer or patient advocacy is an umbrella term for a broad set of strategies for building and maintaining long-term relationships with customers or patients. These can take many forms, including:
  • Proactive communication
  • Regular follow-up
  • Providing consistent progress updates
  • Timely and effective handling of concerns and complaints
  • Educating patients by sharing informational materials or testimonials
Customer or patient advocacy may not always be easy, but it can be highly rewarding for both patients and providers. By helping improve the quality of care and user satisfaction, it could considerably boost patient retention rates and, by extension, your ROI.

Why You Should Consider Hiring a Dedicated Patient Advocate

A dental patient or customer advocate is a professional whose job is to enable you to provide better, more consistent, and more personalized care for your patients. This individual may be a member of your staff or an outside agency. Either way, they can be an invaluable resource. 

Some of the services a dental patient or customer advocate may provide include:
  • Acting as a liaison between providers and patients
  • Assisting with insurance claims and billing
  • Providing accurate and up-to-date information about treatments and answering patients’ questions
  • Supporting patients by providing emotional support, accompanying them to your practice, and helping them navigate the dental healthcare system
If you are looking to hire a patient advocate, you may want to consider candidates with specialized advocacy training, national certification, and hands-on experience in the healthcare or dental industry. Many U.S. universities now offer graduate programs in patient advocacy. Eligible applicants may also become Board Certified Patient Advocates (BCPAs) through the Patient Advocate Certification Board.

5 Benefits of Dental Customer or Patient Advocacy

Here are five ways in which a carefully implemented dental customer or patient advocacy strategy can help grow your practice:

1. It May Improve Patient-Dentist Communication

Whether you choose to appoint a dedicated advocate or prefer to take care of such matters yourself, patient advocacy can be instrumental in ensuring clear, timely, and thorough communication with your patients. Depending on the needs of each patient, advocacy strategies you may wish to incorporate in your practice include: 
  • Sending automated appointment reminders
  • Carefully explaining the patient’s medical condition, the proposed treatment, and potential side effects
  • Breaking down medical terms and complex concepts into more accessible, bite-sized information 
  • Providing educational materials that non-healthcare professionals can understand
  • Following up on patients post-treatment to check if they are following your instructions and monitor for complications
  • Listening to patients’ questions, concerns, and complaints and responding promptly

2. It Can Help Empower Patients to Make Informed Decisions

Some dental patients may find it hard to navigate today’s increasingly complicated healthcare system.
Here is where patient advocacy comes in. It can help provide people with information that is not only accurate, comprehensive, and up to date but also easy to understand. A dedicated patient advocate may also assist patients in researching their full range of treatment options, provide them with insurance and billing support, and ask questions they may not know to ask. All this can empower patients to make educated, data-driven choices about their health.

3. It May Result in Better Patient Care and Treatment Outcomes 

Patient advocacy strategies typically allocate a lot of resources to instructing patients how to cooperate effectively with their providers to ensure optimal healthcare outcomes. This may include educating patients about:
  • Dental hygiene
  • Prevention and prophylactics
  • What to expect before, during, and post-treatment
  • How and when to take any medications 
Such education efforts also tend to go hand in hand with monitoring for compliance, following up on progress, and watching for potential side effects and complications. A patient advocate may even call or visit people in their homes. This could help catch early signs of trouble and address any issues before they escalate. 

Patient advocacy can be especially beneficial for elderly, chronically ill, and other patients who find it hard to manage their dental care on their own. If their families live far away or are unable to assist, a patient advocate could step in and provide transportation, accompany them to the practice, and handle their overall dental caregiving needs.

4. It Could Help Save Your Time

As a dentist, explaining a complex medical condition or course of treatment to a non-specialist patient could easily take you a good 20 minutes. This may not be the most effective use of your time.
Patient advocacy could offer a solution that can help save your time while ensuring patients have all the information they need. You can communicate the information to a patient advocate, who will then break it down in simpler terms, taking as much time as may be necessary to explain it to the patient.

5. It May Increase Your ROI

The average annual patient attrition rate for dental practices nationwide is 17%. By enabling you to provide better dental care and treatment outcomes, patient advocacy can contribute to a higher patient retention rate. This, in turn, could help boost your revenue without necessarily attracting new patients to your practice, generating a higher return on your initial investment.

Dental Customer/Patient Advocacy: Final Thoughts

When done properly, dental customer or patient advocacy can be an effective way to increase customer satisfaction, improve healthcare outcomes, and contribute to a higher ROI for your practice.

That said, patient advocacy is not a panacea. Even a well-executed advocacy strategy may not insulate you from legal risks and malpractice claims. 

The good news is that a dentist malpractice insurance policy can supplement your patient advocacy strategy by providing coverage against a wide array of liabilities.
Compare dentist insurance quotes and get your policy today.